On Thursday I walked into a poetry workshop I teach. It was early in the morning, and phones were being checked for messages which somehow always seem to be urgent and need an immediate response.
Or do they?
I put my phone away and my students did as well. I held forth for a few minutes about striving to live my life as a Plain Quaker, as least as much as I can in the world today. Until three years ago, I did not even own a cell phone.
I asked my students, who are not Quakers, if simplicity is related to living a life of a poet.
A very talented young teenager said, “Why, yes. You probably see life differently.”
I was impressed and asked him to keep going with this theme.
“Well, for instance, in today’s hurried world, if you see leaves on the ground, most people would probably just step over them or not notice. A poet might say or write something like, ‘Beautiful leaves, once green, left their tree in a different shade and are now sleeping gently on the ground.'”
Not bad for 8:20 a.m.!
The world can be hard to keep up with, to slow down and take a few minutes to appreciate fallen leaves!
In fact, my student wrote a sonnet about a fallen bird which I published in our school newsletter this week that has a readership of over 1,000!
I often feel like I live two lives: one as a Plain Quaker who turns off lights at home, much to the dismay of my family, who does not know how to work a microwave oven, who turned in his driver’s license, but who has to embrace technology in his professional life to keep his career moving forward.
I recently read about Mary Oliver, the Pulitzer-Prize winning poet who died last month at age 83. Mary described her relationship with nature as a source of solace, beauty and wisdom. She never graduated from college. For many years, she lived with her partner in Provincetown, Mass., where they sometimes fed themselves by digging for clams and searching for berries.
My students took in how there will always be part of me that wishes I could live like this, simply, without fuss, true to being a poet and a Plain Quaker.
I asked if they thought this might be possible for them. “It would be awfully hard,” said one young man. “No, it would actually be impossible!”